LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) – Identifying stolen property using it's unique characters can be a numbers game. Last week a Lufkin man said his three motorcycles were stolen. However, police say the odds of recovering the bikes are better because of a few numbers.
The Vehicle Identification Number on Jordan Harrelson's motorcycles may be just a number, but it's one that he's hoping makes a big difference.
"It's definitely important and you don't realize how important it is until something like this happens, until you have a vehicle stolen," said Harrelson.
Harrelson said three of his motorcycles disappeared, and while police are still searching for his bikes, they said he has a better chance of finding them because he has his VIN.
"It makes it more difficult for a person to sell it because in order to sell them now, they have to change the appearance of the bikes and obliterate the serial numbers of the bikes," said Lufkin Police Department Det. J.B. Smith.
Police enter VIN and serial numbers into the National and Texas Crime Information Centers as stolen. The unique numbers in the database allow authorities to search beyond their jurisdiction.
"It allows us to notify all law enforcement that it's stolen," explained Smith. "If an item is stolen here, a gun is stolen here, and an officer in Dallas comes in contact with that gun, when they run that serial number through the database, it will come up as stolen and it's recovered at that point."
Without a unique number, even recovered items like the dozens of bikes in the Angelina County Sheriff's Office evidence shed often can't be returned to the owner because authorities don't know who it belongs to.
Smith said if the VIN or serial number is on a sticker someone can just peel it off, so you should engrave the unique number onto the object itself.
For Harrelson, the numbers are helping him stay optimistic.
"The hardest thing is trying to keep your head up," said Harrelson. "The police are out there, they're doing their job and hopefully they'll find them."
Many items, like guns, vehicles, and electronics can be entered into the database by law enforcement.
Smith said if your object doesn't have a serial number you can create one, just don't use your initials, social security, or driver's license number.